Scruffy progressive protesters locked themselves together across railroad tracks, blocked traffic and shouted profanities at police on Tuesday in a coordinated "West Coast Port Shutdown." Truckers lost wages. Shippers lost business. This is what the Occupy Wall Street movement calls "victory."
Aging Big Labor bosses toasted one another from the sidelines as they declared the "rebirth of the labor movement." What's really going on? It's an old-school power grab by a decrepit union wrapped in self-deluded social media do-goodism.
Peace-loving agitators wielding guitars and iPhones may earnestly believe they stood up to corruption and stood up for workers this week. A socialist website promoted the port shutdown as an expression of "solidarity" for the workers' "struggle." One Oakland, Calif., agitator decried "exploitation by capitalism" as the shiftless busily divided their work blockages into what they called — chortle — "shifts."
In reality, it's the young Occupiers who are being exploited as human shields for the economy-strangling agenda of the violence-prone International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU). These ignorant punks are putting the "front" in "waterfront."
Few remember now that the left's three-month-long "Day of Rage" festivities kicked off in September at the Port of Longview, Wash. — a far cry from Goldman Sachs and the rest of New York's financial district. Unionized longshoremen stormed the port there and took a half-dozen guards hostage. They damaged railroad cars, dumped grain, smashed windows, cut rail brake lines and blocked a train for hours while the ILWU and AFL-CIO cheered them on.
The violence followed a similar outburst in July, when longshoremen tore down a chain link fence on EGT's private property and blocked railroad tracks to prevent a grain delivery — a clear violation of the 1946 Hobbs Act, which makes it a crime to employ robbery or extortion to impede interstate commerce.
Despite breaking federal law, violating a judicial restraining order and committing systematically planned sabotage and trespassing, most of the union thugs got away with wrist slaps. The ILWU received a $250,000 fine to cover damages from the vandalism — a fine that will be paid with rank-and-file workers' hard-earned dues money.
So, what's their beef? No, it's not about the "right" of unions to "organize." It's not about the welfare of the "99 percent." It's about one union losing its seven-decade-old grip on West Coast port operations. It's about six-figure-salaried union suits at the ILWU, established by bloody radical Marxist Harry Bridges, throwing a lawless tantrum against economic efficiency and technological progress.
The ILWU is trying to break the will of EGT Development, a multinational agribusiness that recently built a $200 million grain terminal in Longview. It's a state-of-the-art facility with unprecedented automation features that will speed unloading, increase shipping capacity and bring in tens of millions of dollars in lease and tax payments alone to the region.
EGT needs a nimble 21st-century workforce. The entitled overlords of the ILWU, who have ruled West Coast ports since the 1930s, are demanding a monopoly on the company's master control system, control over the work hour structure, excessive mandatory breaks and extortionist man-hour "premiums" to bail out the union's underfunded pension. "We've worked these elevators since 1934, and we've always been in that master console," local ILWU President Dan Coffman told public radio.
EGT refused and instead brought in an outside contractor with a different union to fill about 50 jobs. But the ILWU water-carriers in the Occupy movement don't care about those workers. Or the American farmers who have been hurt by the port saboteurs. Or the independent non-union truckers who were forced to forgo work in the name of worker empowerment. Trucker Hai Ngo of San Leandro, Calif., told the San Francisco Chronicle: "The Occupy people handed out flyers to us, but never asked what we thought before they planned this. I will lose about $350, and at holiday time that hurts. It's just a waste of our time and money, and won't accomplish anything."
Unfortunately, Ngo and blue-collar workers like him are collateral damage in the ILWU's ruthless battle for Big Labor survival. Coffman, who has stoked violence for months, vowed earlier this year that "we will fight to the end to secure what is rightfully our turf."
And now the gasping longshoremen's union has a whole new set of Occu-tools to do the dirty work for them.
Michelle Malkin is the author of "Culture of Corruption: Obama and his Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks & Cronies" (Regnery 2010). Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.